Retired Life

So what have I been doing since I left Library Land?

It is amazing how fast each day goes by and I fill the days with things I love to do. Such as writing, cycling, walking, knitting, sketching, playing my piano, reading, listening to music and podcasts, taking photographs, yoga, making healthy plant-based meals, and more. #retiredlife

retired_life_activities

Advertisements

Wanderlust

“Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.” ~ Rumi

I’ve always loved walking. As a child my first impulse whenever we went somewhere new was to explore the surroundings. At High School I signed up for the ‘Bushwalking’ activity and was disheartened to find it was filled with students who wanted to escape from school, smoke and do other non-walking activities. As an adult, my husband and I would drag our three children on hikes through National Parks, around sea cliff tracks, overnight hikes carrying packs, and anywhere where there was a hill, a track, rocks, and gorgeous natural vistas.

IMG_4045_2

When my mother died and I knew I was returning to live on the Mornington Peninsula I planned to walk the trails of the Two Bays Walking Track in order to deal with my grief and loss. I knew the beauty of nature would heal me. The peace and solitude, alone with my thoughts amidst the hush of the bush and the music of the birds, gave me space to think and feel. As my father became ill and declined, these daily walks gave me strength to keep up the care for him until he too passed away.

The Two Bays Track is gorgeous. Full of twisted tree trunks, sun shining off sea glass, clouds spinning, the wind shaking it all alive, while birds flit and sing. The running group that we are member of choose a section of the track each weekend to run. I am content to walk and take photos. It fulfils my constant desire to continue to walk the trails and enjoy the natural beauty I see, and it sustains my soul.

In March this year my husband and I went on a trek for 7 days along the Overland Track in Tasmania. It had been on my list of walks to do for many years. We had done both ends of the track in earlier years. Despite the injury I caused to my knee during this walk, I loved the experience. Being out in nature was glorious, away from roads, cars, electricity, screens, signs, commercial crap, and the entire mindless busy everyday world we live in. I loved the clean beauty of the vistas of mountains, rocks, cliffs, trees, forests, moss, cold, fragrance, quiet, snow, sun, wind, colour and textures. The wild raw untouched beauty cannot be matched by man.

Recently I went along to see the movie Six Ways to Santiago with a friend at a local cinema. I have read about the Camino Trail and although I find it intriguing I don’t really have a desire to walk it; perhaps because it is not entirely ‘in nature’ but winds through villages. I do not feel the need to go on a pilgrimage, and the numbers of people doing the walk puts me off a bit. One may ask why people are drawn to do such things, and the people in this documentary suggested that it is for: appreciation; movement; meditation; accessing creativity; friendship; talking; and thinking. And for some there is the religious appeal as it is historically a Christian Pilgrimage.

Mark Sisson lists the 17 health benefits of walking and suggests “it keeps your buttocks engaged with the world.”

So while I thought about walking and why people do it and how it has a positive effect on the mind, I wondered what to title this post. While waiting for an interstate flight, browsing the bookshop I found and bought the book Wanderlust : Find Your True North by Jeff Krasno. Its irresistible blurb reads,IMG_6084

“ Wanderlust: an irrepressible desire to travel the world, practice yoga, eat locally, live sustainably, consume ethically, be creative, and build community around mindful living.”

Yes, my quest continues and is in alignment with so many others.

Walking the Overland Track in Tasmania

If you were looking for a description of the Overland Track walking experience in Tasmania you could easily find many written and photographic books on the subject. And while in this account, I will not attempt to write a blow-by-blow (step by step) description, it must be emphasized that any second-hand account will fail to provide you with the actual experience. You must immerse all of your physical body and senses into the scene in order to appreciate it fully.

Overland Track signpost March 2015

Overland Track signpost March 2015

From a distance the landscape can appear grey, dull, olive green, and even boring. Up close the colour and diversity of plants, flowers, rocks, mosses, bark, fungi, water, etc., arrest the eye continually. Just when you relax thinking you have seen all there is to see, suddenly a new intricate variety appears and stops you in your tracks. I was amazed to see a toadstool I’d never seen before – pale red and green with a frilly white skirt. I only saw one.

The sights are awesome. Towering mountain crags where eagles dive for fun. Tolkeinesque mossy green forest paths that wind around the roots of 800 year old trees. Vast alpine plateaus where yellow button grass hide tiger snakes and shy furry animals. Waterfalls in full flight. Lakes too cold to dip a toe. Rocks, trees and flowers arranged by The Master Landscape Gardener, and then dusted with fresh falling snowflakes.

The fragrances were intense. The nutmeg aroma of wet wild Sassafras. The gin and tonic spritz of the celery top bush. Eucalypts, Myrtles, Banksia, King Billy Pine, Beech and more.

The tiresome experience of pushing your body along paths full of rocks, mud, water, tree roots, steps, streams, and leeches, in driving rain was a challenge experienced by all in the group.

The Overland Track Tasmania March 2015

The Overland Track Tasmania March 2015

We signed up for the ‘chardonnay version’ with Cradle Mountain Huts. We had a bed in a warm hut at the end of every day. Our packs did not need to carry food, or bedding or tents or cooking gear. Our guides led us, cajoled us, cooked for us, and cleaned the huts after we left. Our guides were awesome and extraordinary individuals proud and passionate about this unique environment and Tasmania in general. The huts were warm, had hot showers, drying rooms for our wet muddy boots and clothes. We had three course dinners with local wines. It felt like the privilege that it was.

I wrote a haiku for each day in my mind. I took photographs galore. We were touched by a tragic incident halfway along the trail reminding us of the need to be careful in this remote wilderness. Out of network range the guides used the satellite phones to call in the Air Ambulance helicopters.

jetty_lake_st_clair_march-2015

Jetty at Lake St. Clair Tasmania March 2015

We pushed on. My knees struggled to complete the journey and did so with tape strapping and walking poles. At last we arrived at our destination all too soon – Lake St. Clair on Day Six. Lunch on the jetty waiting for the boat to pick us up, we basked in the warm sun, appreciating the journey.

I recommend this experience BUT be prepared for a difficult walk where EVERY footfall must be decided before it is actually taken.

Walking in nature

One strategy I intentionally employed with the objective towards handling the grieving process and retaining a positive outlook on life is to walk in the natural environment.

I know that just being in amongst nature, absorbing the sights, sounds, textures, and smells lifts my spirits and reminds me of my place in the larger scheme of things.

I love the chaotic unpredictable asymmetrical and beautiful variety of nature’s garden: the choir of bird calls and insect buzzing; the extensive palette of green; the movement of leaves, grasses and dust particles; the unusual flowers; the occasional animal; and the absence of manmade ugliness.

Susan at Pillar Point

So I did and it has. I’ve walked the trails of the Mornington Peninsula and recently some of the rugged walks at Wilsons Promontory. The vistas at ‘The Prom’ are awesome (in the true sense of the word). The greens, aquas, and turquoises of the crystal clear waters sparkle like a precious gemstone. The wind roars like an oncoming freight train. The rocky monoliths stand in perpetuity – daunting shapes remembered from my childhood visits. The beauty fills my spirit and soul. Petty squabbles dissipate. My love of life abounds.

Back in December as I sat in the hospital room beside the waxen corpse of my deceased father on the morning he died, I received the words into my head “Just enjoy your life!” I’m sure this was a message for me from my Dad’s departing spirit, as he knows my serious nature more than most.

Tidal River Duck Race

And Tidal River is a place where adults can let their inner child run free. The group of people we went with really know how to enjoy life with childish abandon without the need for alcohol or drugs. They are a bunch of mostly retired fitness nuts. So we had running relay races on the beach. We rode the waves on body boards. We had a duck race and a boat with egg passenger race on the river. We laughed. We looked for wombats at dusk and rose at dawn with the birds. We snorkelled the rocky shoreline, walked and ran the trails, and relaxed in water holes in the river. We had a heap of fun.

So yes Dad I am getting on with enjoying my life.